Archive for December, 2012

Brené Brown: Listening to shame

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Grace

One of the most misunderstood concepts in the church is grace.  I’ve seen many flowery and convoluted definitions of this word which betray its simple and profound meaning.

Grace is favour!

It means more simply “an approving attitude; good will.”

Grace is not merited!

When it is explained that God has restored our relationship with by grace, it means that God decided that he approves of us and takes pleasure in us.  There is nothing we have done to earn it or deserve it.

From our vantage point it seems as though there is an ebb and flow to our relationship with God.  It feels like we lose his favour when we indulge in pride, selfishness or envy.  If we stray too far we lose our usefulness to God and his agenda and we become worthless and if we become too worthless, then God must, in his holiness take harsh measures to give us the punishment we deserve.  In some twisted way we believe God’s favour is unearned, by his disfavour is completely earned.

Many assume that we can become like God by knowing God’s character and expectations and striving to live up to them.  Some are more nuanced in that they see God’s grace as his spiritual power strengthening us to live better in order to please him.

I think there is a better path, one that is less traveled.  One that involves a lot less striving and lot more transformation.  It comes from knowing God’s love and importantly our own sense of worth to God.  This is the one great lesson I’ve learned in my years.  Once I came to know the great value God places on my life it began to infect the way I saw myself and everyone else.  All of the sudden I came to appreciate God so much more and I came to appreciate what he appreciated.  With all that acceptance and love I came to know love for others in deep and profound ways.  While I can’t proclaim that I like everyone, knowing God’s love for very unlikable people has given me incredible patience and mercy for people.

Knowing God’s love and the inherent worthiness of everyone around me regardless of the choices they make has changed my perception and values.  I don’t steal from people because I care about them, not because I’m striving to live up to some standard.  It isn’t even a decision I have to make, I just care.  People matter to me even when they treat me like garbage.

In this path the great obstacle is shame.  No amount of sin can separate me from the love of God, but my personal response to my sin can lead me to retreat from the light in to blindness and darkness. God is always there but I grow callous and insensitive.  Shame is a personal sense of unworthiness.  If I feel unworthy then I hide and the more I invest my personal resources in hiding how truly unworthy I become the more I begin to fear the light.  Instead of embracing the God of light I hide from him and then begin to strive to make myself worthy which inevitably ends in failure and more shame.  The cycle continues.  This is the life most Christians live, and the concept of salvation is just a free ticket in to heaven instead of something much more transformative.

I have stopped trying to be a good Christian and I simply believe that God has deemed me and everyone else worthy of His love.  As that truth penetrates my heart and mind I end up doing and saying things that I never would have if I was striving to live up to a standard.

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12 thoughts I’ve grappled with in 2012

1. God is love and holy and these two attributes complement each other and should not be understood to be in tension with each other.

2. Righteousness is purity in values, conduct and love. It isn’t austere perfectionism.

3. The distance we feel from God is rooted in our own shame and sense of unworthiness. God does not withdraw because of our lack of perfection.

4. The path to righteousness is found in knowing God’s love for yourself and others. When you know such love you begin to exude it and living with that love inspires and motivates wonderful care, compassion and selflessness.

5. God is always with us, but we become blinded to his presence when live in shame.

6. God’s divine judgement will be severe for some, but it will be fair. I expect to find out that God’s kindness and compassion will be much stronger than many religious people believe.

7. The biggest problem in the church isn’t how it organizes itself; it is the use of fear, coercion, and shame to manipulate people in to behaving better.

8. Those Christians that continually offer sweeping condemnations of the church generate much more heat than light and often betray their own theology of God’s grace.

9. Everyone is worthy because the biggest player in the marketplace values us this way.

10. The purpose of the church is to express the fellowship of the Trinity in our relationships

11. The key to faithfulness in church life is sharing truly “good news” and expressing the love and truth of our saviour.

12. The path of deeper faith is to stop using human tools to motivate and manipulate people. When you see people engage in acts of unselfish love free from outsider pressure it can restore your faith in church.

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What changed my world this year Part 1: Brene Brown on Shame at Tedx

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